Tubbs Taking Care of Business

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas senior Zac Tubbs can't help but feel like a wide-eyed freshman when he slips on his red jersey, grabs his helmet and walks to the practice field this spring.

That's because the right tackle, who sustained a broken ankle in practice last October, has a rekindled appreciation for the little things after fighting through what he described as a "living hell" the past six months.

"After everything I've been through, something as simple as being here, being around the guys and putting on the pads feels great," Tubbs said. "It's the same feeling I had when I came here as a freshman."

It wasn't long ago that the 6-foot-6, 358-pounder faced a demanding rehabilitation from a season-ending injury, was hospitalized after a threatening blood clot crept into his chest and wasn't sure when, or if, he'd step on the field again.

That's why the Cullman, Ala., native, who started five games last season in place of departed two-time All-American Shawn Andrews, is excited about his limited work in non-contact drills during this spring. Arkansas trainer Dean Weber, who was hoping Tubbs could simply walk without a limp at this point, said Tubbs has exceeded expectations and is remarkably ahead of schedule.

"He's getting a lot more done in spring practice than we ever dreamed of," Weber said. "Anything at all is icing on the cake. He wasn't supposed to do anything.

"It looked like there at one point where you thought, 'Gosh, is this guy ever going to come back? He took care of business and it's admirable on his part."

But Weber said Tubbs had to clear a few hurdles to make it possible.

He was one of two Razorbacks -- joining teammate Derek Moore -- to sustain a fractured left fibula three days after Arkansas' 45-30 loss at Florida on Oct. 2. Weber said the injury, which was season-ending and required a lengthy rehabilitation, was one he typically sees once every five years.

"It's something that you don't want to experience," said Tubbs, who had never sustained a serious injury before last October. "The main part of my leg was broken, not the side. So that was pretty scary.

"But I was more let down that I had to miss the rest of the season."

Tubbs underwent surgery to correct the fracture and had one metal plate and seven pins inserted in his left ankle. He has the scar to prove it, as well as the card he carries to excuse the times the metal in his leg sets off airport X-ray machines.

Tubbs' rehabilitation became an afterthought a few weeks after surgery when he noticed a bulge in his leg about the size of a softball. Doctors diagnosed it as a blood clot -- which is not uncommon -- and Tubbs checked into the hospital.

It eventually crept into his lungs and became a threatening situation.

"It was like, what else can happen to me?" Tubbs said. "They couldn't get control of it. I was scared because I didn't know what was going to happen and I didn't know what things were going to be like from then on."

Tubbs said he had trouble breathing when the clot moved into his lungs and had to be helped by a machine during his stay. He was hospitalized for a week-and-a-half and was frequently visited by position coach Mike Markuson and teammates.

"It was weird going into the hospital and seeing him laying there helpless," said center Kyle Roper. "There's nothing you can do to help him. It was tough. It makes you think how precious life is because you never know what can happen."

Tubbs said the hospital stay, which was the first in his life, delayed his rehabilitation for a few weeks. When he checked out, he crawled around on crutches, graduated to a boot and finally got the chance to walk on his own in mid-February.

Tubbs, who is taking blood thinners until May, can't participate in contact drills this spring because any bruising has the potential to cause another blood clot. But the injury hasn't stopped him from getting in plenty of non-contact work.

"They told him that he probably couldn't start jogging until May or whatever, but he's out here going full speed with zone steps, hitting bags, doing our bag drills, pass sets," said left guard Stephen Parker. "He looks about full speed to me. You don't want to rush anything. But two-a-days, he's going to be more than ready to go."

Said Markuson: "He's way ahead of the curve. It's real positive."

Markuson admitted the Hogs are working on a contingency plan this spring just in case Tubbs doesn't return to form next fall. Weber said Tubbs' broken bone is healed, but the key time for the lineman is conditioning drills in May, June and July.

But Tubbs isn't concerned after surviving the past seven months. He's planning to participate in off-season workouts and prepared to step back on the field next fall.

"It has been a wild ride," Tubbs said. "It was probably the worst time of my life. I'd trade anything just to be out there practicing in pads (this spring), but it's hard.

"I'm ready to get started, get out there and grind with the defense (next fall)."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories